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"Are our lives controlled by fate or destiny, or are we creatures of completely random acts?"


Raymond Teague is the author of Reel Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
Inspire, Explore and Empower
, from Unity House. 

He is an award-winning
journalist, an editor of spiritual publications, a popular New Thought
speaker, and a lifelong movie buff. 

His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above or by clicking here.

  Raymond Teague, 
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews

(2001, 85 minutes, PG-13)

Are you reading this Reel Spirit review by fate or by chance? Does your action have great life-enhancing meaning or is it a frivolous, random diversion?

These questions suggest the spiritually significant questions raised by the film Serendipity: namely, are our lives controlled by fate or destiny, or are we creatures of completely random acts?

Friends of the two central characters describe the conflicting viewpoints. One friend says that life is part of "an exquisite, sublime plan." Another says, "Life is a mess, Sara. It's chaos personified."

Which perspective is right?

Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) definitely believes in fate or destiny. Jon Trager (John Cusack) probably has never thought about fate -- until he meets Sara, whom he calls a "strange and interesting woman," at Bloomingdale's one Christmas season. He's the sort who has just lived his life and not bothered to ponder the why's and wherefore's.

Sara: You don't have to understand. You just have to have faith.

Jon: In what?

Sara: In destiny.

The premise of this enjoyable romantic film written by Marc Klein is that serendipity, one of Sara's favorite words, and fate are important in life, and that we are in step with our true purpose in life only when we follow the signs that fate offers.

To Sara and others who believe in life being controlled by a cosmic or spiritual destiny, serendipity is a sign of fate. Sara calls serendipity a "fortunate accident." Webster's defines serendipity as "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for." Most people probably would agree that life is filled with occasions of "finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for." The issue, however, is whether or not these consciously unsought things are brought to us by fate or by chance.

Sara definitely believes that fate is behind serendipity. Concerning her meeting Jon, Sara says, "It was like the whole universe existed just to bring us together."

But Sara carries her belief in fate to an extreme. She likes to test fate. She and Jon part, supposedly leaving fate to decide if they are to be together and to determine if they are "soul mates." "If we're meant to meet again, we will," Sara says.

As events in the film demonstrate, to benefit from serendipity and signs of destiny, one must be observant and aware and completely open to constantly seeing the bigger picture in our lives.

It's how we read the signs that determine our lives, Sara believes. Serendipitous things keep happening to both Sara and Jon that remind them of each other.

Sometimes the signs are there, but we don't notice them. In Jon, the film gives us a character who becomes transformed by paying more attention to the signs -- to the point that he finally understands that "the universe keeps revealing itself to me."

Like Sara obsessing about the workings of fate, Jon starts obsessing about the meaning of signs. "Maybe the absence of signs is a sign," he says. And "maybe all of this is just a maze designed to lead me back where I started." In their obsessions, both Sara and Jon bring up another question: Don't we humans often try to analyze life too much, rather than just being and being aware?

Often finding and knowing the signs simply come down to being intuitive, to following our intuition or inner guidance. "It's not an exact science," Sara tells Jon. "It's a feeling."

Ultimately, it is their feelings and passions that lead the characters to their destiny.

Do Sara and Jon get together? Well, of course. They have to, we want them to, we expect them to. We'd feel cheated if they didn't -- that's the nature of such fate-ful romances. Just ask fans of When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Only You.

Characters in such stories searching for their soul mates and destiny are fulfilling an archetypal quest for completion and wholeness. That's why there have been Saras and Jons throughout the world's myths, fairy tales, and fine literature. Their stories are Everyperson's stories of connecting with others to find our essential oneness. Their stories illustrate our need to remember together.

A Course in Miracles states, "Let me remember I am one with God, At one with all my brothers and my Self, In everlasting holiness and peace."

These seemingly innocuous romances of fate point the way to a mighty Truth.

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